Compared to home property owners, apartment and condominium dwellers don’t necessarily own the unit. Those who do own the unit rarely own the building where the unit is located; therefore, the ownership of the property is considered either shared by all unit owners or by the landlord or property owner. In this kind of scenario, maintenance and general repairs are shouldered by all parties.
Monthly maintenance fees can be as low as $50 a month or as high as $1,500 monthly. However, damages to the windows in your unit are usually not covered by this maintenance fees. Monthly maintenance refers to general cleaning of common areas, exterior maintenance (painting of building, etc), garbage collection, and maintenance of common amenities, if any.
On top of monthly fees, dwellers can also be charged annual fees for large ticket maintenance costs and unexpected expenses aside from parking fees, added security, and other optional services.
With window replacement, there is no clear cut ruling. In some states, the law states that the property owner or association managing the property must assume the cost of repairs in cases of damage due to natural calamities. The association or property owner should have insurance that should cover the cost. (The cost of replacement windows should be considered a common expense since insurance is mandatory for this kind of housing.)
In some cases though insurance will only cover replacement of the same kind of windows – not an upgrade. If the windows were previously upgraded, insurance companies may argue that the windows are no longer covered by the policy. In addition, the cost of window replacement may be assigned to the unit owner if the damage was due to neglect or intention actions. This means if the property owner can prove that the unit owner failed to take the necessary precautions in protecting the window from damage, then they can pass on the charges to the unit owner. In some instances, the property owner may have issued a new rule on window maintenance which the unit owner did not comply with, and when damages to the windows ensued, then the cost is shouldered by the unit owner.
Then there’s the issue of aesthetics. Any window replacement must have the approval of the property owner since windows improve or detract from the curbside appeal of the building.
To find out if windows are covered as part of your responsibility or considered a common element, you need to go back to your apartment or condominium declaration. There are cases when the declaration will state the inside of the windows is the responsibility of the unit owner while the outside part of the window falls under the responsibility of the property owner.
The advantage of the property owner taking charge (not necessarily paying for the cost) of window replacement is the wholesale price he can get. The savings he is able to secure, he can pass on to the individual unit owners. However, legally, a property owner cannot force a unit owner to replace his windows if the declaration states that windows are part of the unit. On the other hand, new windows will improve energy efficiency and enhance the appearance of the property and individual units so it might be in the interest of the unit owners to work with the property owner and reach a favorable consensus for all.